Chef Matt is executive chef at Spanish Oaks Golf Club in Bee Cave, Texas, where he and his culinary team serve roughly four to five hundred people per week featuring dishes from set menus and à la carte options, as well as buffet-style meals.
“We do a ton of buffets,” Chef Matt said.
Perfect Blend of Fresh Lettuce and Greens
Ultra Mesclun Blend is a Spanish Oaks staple. This “best of the farm” blend typically includes a mix of tender red, green and speckled lettuces, spicy Asian greens, pea tendrils and red ribbon sorrel.
“It’s a little of everything,” Chef Matt said. "There’s a little spice, and it’s really earthy as opposed to the bland stuff. For us it’s about texture and flavor.”
Taste-wise, Chef Matt said he prefers the subtleness of ultra mesclun over larger, more aggressive lettuce. “It has a sweeter flavor,” he said. “It takes to the seasonings and vinaigrettes really well and complements them really nicely.”
Visual appeal counts, as well.
“It’s super colorful and looks good on buffets, and I like the way it looks on the plate,” Chef Matt said.
“Personally, red ribbon sorrel is my favorite thing in the world. It just so cool looking.”
(So, he does have a favorite after all.)
Chef Matt said his salads aren’t limited to just lettuce.
“We do a cauliflower no-lettuce salad,” he said, noting in particular the purple hue of The Chef’s Garden’s mulberry cauliflower. “We slice it against the grain, roast it and toss it with pine nuts, olives and anchovy vinaigrette.”
His salad repertoire also includes an ice spinach blackberry salad with honey, goat cheese and walnuts, and a poke-type salad incorporating hot and spicy arugasabi blooms.
All Hail Kale
And then there’s kale.
“Kale is where it’s at,” he said. “White, purple, it’s a phenomenal product. People always comment on it. They’ll say, ‘That’s kale?’ Now that everybody’s on the kale wagon, it helps educate people as well, which is important for our industry. Just because its kale doesn’t mean it has to be yuck.”
(Chef Matt also agreed that white and purple kale make just-as-healthy, yet much prettier smoothies than their green counterparts.)
To make “crisp lettuce,” the chef mixes in crispy oven-baked kale chips seasoned with chilis and vinegar, along with other salad ingredients.
“Sometimes we like to fry kale, get a good crisp on it,” he said. “It maintains really pretty color, but completely changes the flavor and texture.”
A Lasting Impression
Chef Matt noted his appreciation for the shelf-life of the farm’s fresh greens and lettuces, as well. “Everything we get from y’all lasts,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t have to order anything for two weeks because it lasts so long. It’s not the plain, mushy spring mix in a bag.”
Chef Matt said Spanish Oaks has been using The Chef’s Garden products “forever.” In his early days as a cook with the club, he said he was most familiar with garnishes made from the farm’s microgreens and smaller fresh herbs and edible flowers.
“Then when I saw all of the products y’all have, I realized it doesn’t have to just be the stuff that goes on top of the dish,” he said. “It can be the whole dish!”